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18 Dec

The only parenting book I’ve purchased is this one.  The main premise is that when it comes to raising kids, less is more.  Kids are overwhelmed by too many toys, books, TV, information, etc.  Scale it all back, and kids have an easier time.

For the most part, I’ve found this book to be spot on.  However, I thought the author was nuts to say to keep only about a dozen books out at once for your child.  But even that makes sense to me these days.  Alex keeps going to the same books over and over.  We’ll spend a week devouring The Big Red Barn, Broadway Barks, or I Want to Be an Astronaut.  Over and over and over.  Then he eventually moves on to another few books.

But somehow, we let the toys creep in.  And in and in and in.  Over the summer we noticed that all Alex wanted to do was color.  At first, we thought it was the excitement of his new craft table, but the tantrums ramped up at the same time.  Finally, we figured out that he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of toys.  He had three baskets/boxes of toys in the living room alone, and they were overflowing.  Finding a toy meant digging through the mess, and he just couldn’t handle it.  So he abandoned his toys, and only wanted to color and watch TV.

We culled through the toys, got rid of a few, boxed up a few others to take out at a later date.   It worked.  Alex started playing with his toys again, and the tantrums lessened.

We find ourselves somehow back in the same situation.  Too many toys, too many choices.  And Christmas is coming very, very soon.

See these toys below?

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My little guy is obsessed with trains right now.   Those are the only two he owns, and he loves them.  They’re in constant play, and that little plastic Thomas the Tank Engine is his bed buddy every night and during naps.  While he loves playing with the (better) Thomas trains in the church nursery, truth is, he’d be perfectly happy with just these 2 trains.  He doesn’t know that he’s supposed to want more, at least, according to our culture.

(At this point, I should probably mention that he’s not only getting Thomas trains and tracks for Christmas, but also a Thomas train table.  Grandparents are awesome!)

We came home from Thanksgiving in Texas with a ton of new toys from my husband’s side of the family.  We bought toys while we were in Dallas for Christmas.  And the toys from my side of the family have arrived.   I’m finding myself wondering where we’re going to put everything!  More than that, I’m questioning whether or not we should even give Alex the gifts we bought for him.  For example, we bought him a set of cars and one of those rugs with car tracks on it.  But in light of all the trains, I’m not sure the car stuff will be played with.  I have a strong suspicion our boy will be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff coming his way.

This is the sort of parenting dilemma I never anticipated.

We culled through the toys again last night, and we need to weed out a few more.  I’m trying to take to heart what Simplicity Parenting says about toys.  Our culture, and frankly our parental desires to give our kids things that will make them happy, say that if a kid likes his toy car, then he’ll love a dozen of them.  But instead of loving his one or two cars, he’s overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cars and won’t care much about any of them.

Alex loves Veggie Tales, and his stuffed Bob the Tomato is his best buddy.  Bob goes almost everywhere with us.  We considered buying him Larry the Cucumber to go with his Bob, but then decided against it.  We’d rather have him love Bob, instead of having to divide his attention/affection between the two.  We’ve seen a hierarchy of preference among his stuffed animals, and frankly, he just doesn’t need to add to it.

He has enough.


Christmas Ornaments

8 Oct

I had another wedding shower to send a gift to.  (My attendance would have required a trip to Texas, something I would have loved to do, but it’s inconvenient and expensive.)  In addition to sending a regular gift, I made a Christmas ornament for the couple’s first Christmas tree.  Like last time, I went for a bluebird of happiness, but I changed things up a bit.  First, this shower was for the sister of the young man I previously made an ornament for.  I didn’t want to do something identical.  Second, this one fits the recipient better than the first one would have.  Third, it turns out that I like this one better.

I used the same technique of gluing my design to a piece of acetate, which is then rolled up and placed inside a glass ornament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I purchased iridescent glass rather than clear glass until it was too late.  So the photos are not as clear as I would like.  I used the initial of the couple’s soon-to-be joint last name, added a punched-out bluebird, and voila!

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While I was at it, I made an ornament for my own tree.  I either buy or make an ornament each year for my husband and me.  Since having Alex, I now do the same for him so that he’ll have a collection of ornaments to take with him when he’s all grown up and leaves home.  Because coloring has become one of his favorite pastimes, I wanted to preserve some of his early artwork in some way.  But let’s be honest; a toddler’s scribbles aren’t exactly frame-worthy.  However, they are definitely ornament worthy.

I punched several heart shapes out of one of his drawings.  I folded each heart in half, then glued the hearts to each other, essentially making a bit of a fan.  I then glued the hearts to a piece of acetate and rolled it all up and put it into an ornament.  Add ribbon, and it’s done.  Beautifully preserved artwork from my favorite little person.


This one is mine, but I’m going to make a second one for Alex’s collection, as I think it well sums up the thing he has been most into in 2013: crayons!

Handmade Wedding Gift

24 May

One of our former youth back home in Texas is getting married soon.  These kids grow up too fast, as it doesn’t seem possible that any of them can now be college graduates and getting married!  But they have grown up, and now we’re past graduation gifts and into weddings.

I typically do something for the home, like towels or kitchen items.  I did buy bowls.  Really fun confetti bowls, actually.  But I wanted to do something a little more personal, as well.  I remember the first Christmas Steven and I had together after we were married.  We went out and bought a special ornament together for our first tree.  I also unwrapped an entire box of ornaments that my mom had saved from my childhood.  Lots of great memories.  Steven stood and looked on sadly as I gleefully unwrapped all my special ornaments because he had none.  They didn’t do Christmas trees in his house when he was growing up.   Isn’t that terribly sad?

I don’t know whether or not this young man and his fiancee have ornaments from their own childhoods for a tree or not, but I wanted to make sure that they have at least one ornament waiting for them for their first Christmas tree.

I didn’t want to do anything overtly Christmas-y.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into snowmen or Santas or other typical Christmas scenes.  I’m not against them, but they don’t really have any special meaning.  Nor did I want to do something lame like cut up their wedding invitation and put it into a Christmas ball.  Not only is that not very attractive, but to me, it’s like giving someone their invitation in a frame; it comes across as cheap and not very creative.  (I’m a strong believer that couples will save their invitations and other wedding mementos in their own way that befits their own style.)

I went more with a (loose) theme of love, home, and happiness.  I opted for a bluebird of happiness.  The old story goes that two young children went all over the place looking for the bluebird of happiness, only to go home and find it there.  So this was my Christmas-ornament interpretation of that:

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The secret to getting the bird in there is acetate.  I’ve tried in the past to get paper inside one of these glass ornaments, and it was a disaster.  The paper didn’t want to unroll properly once inside, and it looked crumpled and messy.  I searched a long time online one night and ran across this tutorial, which neatly explained how to do what I wanted to do.  The one change I would make to the instructions is to buy acetate in the specialty craft paper section of the craft store.  (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby.)  The instructions say to use overhead projector sheets, but as a former teacher, I can tell you that they yellow.  Badly.  One summer in a Texas attic, and that ornament will be ruined.  (Although, admittedly, I don’t know how the stuff from the craft section will fare.  I’m just hoping it’s better, as it appears to be made of much sturdier stuff.)

A little touch I added was to use shrink plastic to cut out their initial.  (Remember Shrinky Dinks?  Yeah, that stuff.)  I cut their initial out with my Sizzix, colored it in with some Tim Holtz Distress Stain, punched a hole in it, then put it in the toaster oven to shrink.  I then threaded some ribbon through it and attached it to the top of the ornament like a little charm.

I also changed things up by using seed beads inside the ornament, instead of glitter.  The beads can rattle around in there, but they won’t stick to the glass like glitter does.  This was super important, as the ornament had to be shipped from Oklahoma to Texas.

I like big, fluffy bows, so I added that to the top.  As for the bird itself, I used a Martha Stewart stamp and watercolor pencils to color it in like an Eastern Bluebird, which I’m fully aware the stamp is not.  It gets the point across, regardless.

I sent it to a friend back home to take to the church shower for me, as I couldn’t be there.  I’ve already heard some nice things about it, so I think it was a success!

DIY Mother’s Day Corsage

7 May

We always give my MIL a corsage for Mother’s Day.  We could do that inexpensively when we lived in Texas, as we’d just pick one out at the store and drive it over to her house.  Last year we were in Oklahoma for Mother’s Day, and we learned how unbelievably expensive it is to have a corsage made and delivered.  Ouch!  My husband works for a non-profit Christian organization here.  He took a very large paycut to work for this ministry we’re passionate about, and that means we really have had to cut expenses.  I started looking online for an alternative to having flowers delivered.

I first googled “DIY Mother’s Day corsage,” but that kept leading me to a felt flower corsage.  While lovely, I had no desire to cut little pieces of felt and sew or glue them together.  What’s more, I wasn’t sure MIL would care for that as much as something more realistic.  So I changed my search to “DIY corsage” and found this.  Looked easy enough, so I headed to Hobby Lobby to buy the supplies.

FYI, if you didn’t know, they sell realistic-looking flowers.  They’re even labeled as such and have minor imperfections like a real flower, as well as a realistic feel.  I bought all my flowers on a 50%-off sale, bought the wire and floral tape at Dollar Tree, and used a 40%-off coupon for corsage pins, so that brought the total cost to around $11.

Not only did the tutorial make it look easy, it really was easy!  I put a corsage together in under 10 minutes.  As a mama who can only get things done during her busy toddler’s nap, this was wonderful!  The corsage turned out beautifully, and when Steven hand-delivered it to his mom last night (he’s in Dallas on business), she didn’t even know it wasn’t real until he told her!  I’d call that a definite win.

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(I did spend a little beyond the cost of corsage supplies to buy a box and some yellow ribbon for packaging, but it was only about $3 more, again with a coupon.)

Reclaiming Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, but two years ago, I thought it would never be a nice day again.  I spent most of February 14, 2011 crying.  I’d called the vet that morning to schedule my old, sick cat’s Final Appointment.  He was my baby, my first pet, and my heart was broken over what we had to do.

Oh, and I also took a pregnancy test that afternoon, and it was positive.

For most people, that would have been reason to rejoice, but I was too upset over the cat and completely freaked out at the idea of having a baby.  Supposedly, I couldn’t get pregnant.  It’s a long story, but 13 years of childless marriage seemed to prove that true.  So to say that this was a surprise is an understatement.

Valentine’s Day 2012 was pleasant enough, but I was still tired from the newness of having a young infant.

But this year?  It was actually a little fun.  We’ll still never be big celebrants of this particular holiday, but it was nice to pick out a new stuffed animal for Alex (a monkey) and surprise  him with it.  Alex and I made a card for Steven with a cut-out of Alex’s hand print making the sign for I love you.  I even gave Alex a crayon for the first time ever and let him write in the card.  Took him a while to figure it out, then he went crazy with that crayon!

I honestly never thought I’d enjoy Valentine’s Day again.  But there’s something so sweet about having a happy little person to celebrate with.  I never knew what joy it could be to watch him grow and learn and try new things.  So now I’m going to look at Valentine’s Day as the anniversary of when we first learned about the existence of our Little Love.  I’ve reclaimed this day.